Against the odds: ‘I didn’t let hearing loss slow me down’

Lisa Mills headshot

Each Tuesday we’ll feature a business that’s endured an incredible challenge. This week, Lisa Mills explains how the loss of her hearing aids meant she had to discover a new way to communicate with clients.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes our reliance on it, even on something as simple as being able to use the telephone, limits our ability to communicate. That’s exactly what Lisa Mills found out when her “old faithful” hearing aids broke in 2010.

“As my old analogue hearing aids broke, I had to undertake a hearing rehabilitation program with my audiologist so I could be fitted with new digital hearing aids. This was a very stressful period as I already struggled with hearing but I always found a way to cope. With new hearing aids, it meant I had to virtually reprogram my brain to new ways of hearing. (Almost two years later it is finally getting a bit easier as my brain has begun its reprogramming process). This was a lengthy and exhausting process. However as a result, I was no longer able to make sense of what was being said to me over the phone.”

Mills’ business, Honeybee Creations, a training and consultancy business for Auslan (Australian Sign Language), nonverbal communication, yoga and creative arts for adults and children of all abilities, began to be affected by this communication barrier.

“I avoided the phone like the plague. The worst time was when I wasn’t able to understand voicemail messages and didn’t have another hearing person nearby to interpret the message for me. I also wasn’t able to follow up on phone calls with a phone call. I felt powerless and I felt like a bad businesswoman. I knew I had to resolve the issue or my business would be affected. So I began to investigate other ways to communicate with people.”

Turning to the internet for inspiration, Mills found some new solutions to deal with communicating with her customers and keeping them informed.

“I changed my webhosting company to wix.com so my website could be more effective, user-friendly and contain more information so my customers would buy immediately rather than ask me a number of questions before buying, I set up a voice-to-text service on my mobile phone, I purchased new technology to accompany my new hearing aids to support me better with phone calls, I changed my mobile number as SMS only on my website’s contact page, I set up Skype so I may see my customer’s face and lipread them, I set up an efax account, I requested more face-to-face meetings, I increased my use of email, I started putting better systems into place so I could send out regular eNewsletters to my customers and I increased my activity on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.”

While these changes helped Mills overcome the obstacle of not being able to use the phone, she also needed to begin an education program for new customers.

“Many of my new customers are not deaf aware until they commence training with me, so my communication challenges lie with new customers and other unfamiliar people I deal with through my business.”

Despite implementing many new changes and having to re-educate customers in how to communicate with her, Mills’ business has only grown stronger as a result.

“It’s going from strength to strength. In fact, my challenges have now made my business stronger than before. I now realise that business owners need to be available to customers in a multitude of ways and should not be reliant on the phone. I am so delighted that I can communicate with people in a range of ways – it has made my life and my business richer!”

After overcoming her challenge, Mills has these 3 tips to offer other business owners:

1. Everyone’s communication needs are different due to various lifestyles, physical locations, abilities and technology. So rather than limit contact via mostly one medium, business owners should implement a range of ways customers can contact you.

2. Business owners need to respond to customers within 24-36 hours at the most, as this is the prime time to secure your customer’s interest. If your business is not easily contactable, your customer will move on.

3. When a problem presents itself, deal with it now and fix it. Do not delay. Delay can bring on unnecessary stress, knock your spirit and attract negative energy to your business. Fixing the problem can bring great joy, success, do wonders for your spirit and the laws of attraction will come into play!